The magical sound of the piano has touched people’s hearts since the early 18th century. Many well-known musicians composed their music using the piano.
The first name that might pop up in your mind when you think of famous piano players is Mozart or maybe Beethoven, but today, we’re focusing on the women who have dedicated their careers to this instrument.
In this post, we’ve put together a list of 20 of the greatest and most famous female piano players who deserve a ton of appreciation:
1. Martha Argerich
One of the most famous classical pianists of all time, Martha Argerich was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1941.
Her professional career began when she was eight years old. She received her first worldwide recognition at the age of 16 after moving to Europe and winning the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition.
Her outstanding technique allowed her to perform all around the world, which earned her a devoted international audience.
Her chamber music recordings are her most well-known works. She also won several awards including two Grammys for best instrumental soloist and one for the best chamber performance.
Despite suffering numerous cancer treatments, she’s still performing to this day!
2. Clara Schumann
Clara Schumann, a composer, and pianist from Germany, started studying piano at age five. By the age of 11, she started performing and managed to establish a name for herself in Europe.
After she got married to composer Robert Schumann and had eight children, her career started to face some challenges, but she continued composing and teaching.
She also continued her career after her husband’s death by editing his collected works and touring with a group of chamber musicians.
3. Mitsuko Uchida
Japanese born pianist Mitsuko Uchida was born in Atami, Japan but moved to Vienna with her family at the age of 12 and began training piano around the same time.
She performed for the first time when she was 14 after taking lessons at the Vienna Academy of Music. She then moved to London after nearly 10 years in Austria, and that was her golden era.
She became well known for her recordings of Mozart’s sonatas and Debussy’s etudes receiving several awards, including the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal.
4. Yuja Wang
Yuja Wang, a Chinese classical pianist, started her journey with the piano at the young age of six.
By the age of 15, she was in Philadelphia, where she got the chance to study with the pianist Gary Graffman who was impressed with her talent. After graduating, she was already a famous concert pianist performing all over the world.
Since her first performances, she’s become an in-demand soloist performing with some of the biggest orchestras in the world including the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and even the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
5. Hélène Grimaud
The classically trained French pianist Hélène Grimaud discovered her love of the piano at age seven.
Her journey started at a local conservatory, but she made it to the Paris Conservatoire, where she received her first performance award at age 13. She took a major step in her career by performing with the Orchestre de Paris.
Since then, she has performed with many well-recognized conductors. Hélène Grimaud isn’t only a pianist but also a writer and a human rights activist. She published three books and founded the Wolf Conservation Center after moving to New York City.
6. Khatia Buniatishvili
Khatia Buniatishvili is a Georgian pianist who started learning piano at age three. She began performing worldwide at the age of 10, after nailing her first concert with the Tbilisi Chamber Orchestra, and it hasn’t stopped since.
Buniatishvili used her music as a form of activism, performing in charity concerts and pointing out the human rights issues in some countries.
Her most famous work is her album (Schubert) and her collaboration with Coldplay’s in their album (A Head Full of Dreams).
7. Myra Hess
Myra Hess, an English pianist born in 1890, started studying piano at age five.
She started touring when she was only 17 after her performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Years later, she made it to America.
She played almost every day for six years during the Second World War, which earned her more recognition.
She’s particularly known for her interpretations of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann’s work.
8. Valentina Lisitsa
Valentina Lisitsa started learning the piano when she was three, and a year later, she gave her first public performance.
In 2007, Lisitsa uploaded a recording of some Chopin Etudes on her YouTube channel, which went viral in a couple of days. She successfully turned her internet success into an international career, performing in Europe, America, and Asia.
Fast forward to today and she has over 200 million views and is one of the most viewed pianists on YouTube.
9. Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou, an American pianist, began her career at the age of two and has been known as “The Little Piano Girl” ever since.
By the age of 12, her professional career began with tours in which she performed for well-known jazz artists.
She joined her husband in Kirk’s band “Twelve Clouds of Joy” and earned them great fame with her solo performances. Her most famous work is “Lonely Moments” and “Knowledge” in the bebop style.
10. Beatrice Rana
Beatrice Rana is a famous Italian pianist who started her studies of piano at age four. She gave her orchestral performance when she was only nine, playing Bach’s Piano Concerto in F minor.
She gained public recognition after winning her first award at the Montreal International Competition. She transitioned her career to another level after winning the Audience Award and the Silver Medal in 2013.
She works with international musicians, including James Conlon, Emmanuel Krivine, and Riccardo Chailly.
11. Angela Hewitt
The Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt began her journey with piano at age three. A year later, she started performing in public.
She is the first woman to get the Leipzig Bach Medal for her exceptional interpretations of all of Bach’s works.
Hewitt has performed as a soloist and with different bands in many concerts around the world including several well-known chamber orchestras including, Zurich, Lucerne, Basel, and others.
12. Anna Fedorova
Anna Fedorova started learning piano at age four thanks to her parents, who were also pianists. She began her international career by touring Europe, performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
In her musical journey, she was influenced by Lev Naumov, Leonid Margarius, András Schiff, and others.
Her most famous work is her performance of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in Amsterdam.
13. Alicia de Larrocha
The Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha discovered her passion for piano at the age of three.
She started her international journey when she was 23, and she was considered the best pianist of her time.
Throughout her career, she did a lot of solo performances and earned recognition with her recordings of Albéniz and Granados. She won several awards including, four Grammys and Records of the Year.
14. Olga Kern
Russian pianist Olga Kern started studying piano when she was only five. When she was 17, she started her International career touring around the world. And since then, she has won 11 international awards.
She entered history winning the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Gold Medal after male dominance for over thirty years.
She established her international competition to help young pianists pursue their worldwide careers through a well-recognized competition.
15. Annie Fischer
The Hungarian pianist Annie Fisher started performing at the age of eight and immediately drew attention
Her exceptional career earned her global recognition since she won her first international award at 19.
Her most famous performances are her interpretations of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bartók, which are still appreciated today.
Her collection of Beethoven’s entire works was released after death and received international fame.
16. Alice Sara Ott
Alice Sara Ott, a German-Japanese pianist, started studying piano at age four.
She loved learning piano to the point she had to be pulled away from it and got her first international award at age 12.
Her outstanding playing techniques made her one of the best pianists of her generation.
During her European tour, she performed Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, which received high praise from critics and helped to boost her career.
17. Clara Haskil
Clara Haskil, a Romanian pianist, began her career as a child prodigy, enrolling in the Bucharest Conservatory at the age of six.
Her public career started when she was 10. After that, she moved to London and entered the Paris Conservatoire.
After graduation, she started a tour in Europe and got her best recognition in France and Switzerland.
Haskil didn’t get the chance to have a longer career due to her physical illnesses, yet her name is still associated with Mozart’s piano concerti.
18. Rosalyn Tureck
Rosalyn Tureck, an American pianist, began her career by training herself for four years before enrolling in a school. She started learning in Chicago and made her public appearance at age nine.
Tureck spent 10 years performing and touring in North America before making her European debut in Copenhagen.
Her interpretations of Bach’s music are her most well-known works. Jan Chiapusso, her teacher, was the first to realize her exceptional talent.
19. Lil Hardin Armstrong
Lil Hardin Armstrong started learning piano after her mother got her into the Mrs. Hook School of Music.
Armstrong played for several bands during her early career and became the first major female jazz pianist.
Being a pianist wasn’t her only gift. She was a composer, singer, and bandleader, and she worked with well-known musicians like Freddie Keppard and King Oliver.
As you might have guessed, she has the same surname as famous trumpet player Louis Armstrong who was her husband.
She joined his bands, “Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven” and “Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five” and composed many masterpieces with him.
20. Gabriela Montero
Gabriela Montero, the Venezuelan-American pianist, started learning at age four after showing her love for piano when she was only seven months old.
Her public performances, which she started at five, earned her a scholarship from the Venezuelan government to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Montero stands out with her improvising during the concerts with the participation of her audience.
She also used her influence to point out the situation of Venezuela and showed support for the protesters there.
Wrapping up our List of Great Female Pianists
We hope that we’ve introduced you to some new favorite female pianists and have given you a better understanding of this fascinating instrument.
We strongly advise you to search up these talented pianists on YouTube and watch some of their incredible live performances.